When We Were Terrorists

Great Awakening — A Revelation of Agency

By the 1730s, the kids were getting tired of their parents’ hippy attitudes. The world was shifting beneath their feet, and they sought firmer ground. And thus a very animated religious revival swept through the colonies that aligned wealthy young students and poor farmers against an establishment that was, according to the Great Awakening’s most famous warning, Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God.

The rebels of the 1760s often appealed to people to “save their country” just as Edwards had pleaded for people to save their souls.

Land Bank — A Demonstration of Arbitrary Power

The economy (and the population) in the colonies was rapidly expanding, and a perpetual resulting problem was the limited money supply. Farmers and merchants rarely had enough money to conduct business and often had to resort to barter or IOUs. While paper money had been in circulation in Massachusetts since 1690, its supply always trailed demand. The standard currency, gold and silver coins, often only made it to the colonies by pilfered Spanish silver from the Mexico City mint. And Charles II — when he wasn’t visiting playhouse prostitutes — had been hectoring New England to close its only mint, which it did in the 1680s. The result was that a man who grew barley could only ‘sell’ it to a man who possessed something the barley-grower needed. The situation had grown unbearable by the 1720s.

New Englanders landing near the fortress — one of many paintings and prints done at the time to celebrate the victory.

Louisbourg — A Lesson in Betrayal

The French had long menaced colonial shippers and fishers, and home base of French harassment and piracy was Louisbourg, a fortress on the eastern tip of Nova Scotia. After suffering decades of Louisbourg-supported provocations, Massachusetts launched an attack in 1745. Largely colonial funded, the 47-day siege of Louisbourg combined a Royal Navy assault with colonial troops attacking from land. Fortress Louisbourg, capitol of the French province and widely considered impregnatable, fell on June 27, which was also Harvard’s commencement day.

Mayhew, a Harvard lecturer and church leader, inspired the nights of terror by giving a sermon on revolutionary obligations on August 24. The Sons of Liberty took to the streets the next day.



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